In my book, God’s Crime Scene, I examine the universe as a “crime scene” and investigate eight different pieces of evidence through the filter of a simple investigative question: “Can the evidence ‘in the room’ be explained by staying ‘in the room’? This question is key to determining whether a death scene is a crime scene, and I typically play a game I call “inside or outside the room” whenever I am trying to determine if a death is, in fact, a murder. If, for example, there is a victim in the room with a gunshot injury lying next to a handgun, but the doors are locked from the inside, all the DNA and fingerprints in the room come back to the victim, the gun is registered to the victim and there are no signs of an outside intruder, this is simply the scene of a suicide or accidental death. If, however, there exist fingerprints or DNA of an unknown suspect, the gun does not belong to the victim, and there are even bloody footprints leading outside the room, I’ve got to reconsider the cause of this death. When the evidence in the room cannot be explained by staying inside the room and is better explained by a cause outside the room, there’s a good chance I’ve got a murder. When this is the case, my investigation must shift direction. I must now begin to search for an external intruder. I think you’ll find this investigative approach applicable as you examine the case for God’s existence. If all the evidence “inside the room” of the universe can be explained by staying “inside the room”, there’s no need to invoke an ‘external’ cause. If, on the other hand, the best explanation for the evidence “inside the room” is a cause “outside the room”, we’ll need to shift our attention as we search for an “external” intruder.
There are eight distinct pieces of evidence (in four separate categories) that must be explained when examining the attributes of our universe. These divergent categories of evidence all point to the same reasonable inference. The first category involves cosmological evidence. One important attribute of the universe is simply its origin. This first piece of evidence is critical to understanding the very nature of the cosmos and has been examined deeply by atheists and theists alike. As it turns out, nearly everyone agrees on two evidential inferences related to the origin of our universe:
The Universe Came In To Existence From Nothing
The evidence for the beginning of our universe is cumulative, diverse and substantial. The “stuff” of the universe (all space, time, and matter) came into existence from nothing, and all the evidence scientists have examined so far points to this reasonable conclusion. “Big Bang” cosmology is described as the “Standard Cosmological Model” for a reason: the vast majority of physicists and scientist accept this model as an accurate description of the beginning of the universe:
“Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” – Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose
“With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is now no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” – Alexander Vilenkin
“The standard cosmological model is a striking success, as a phenomenological description of the cosmological data . . . The model’s success in explaining high precision observations has led a clear majority of the cosmological community to accept it as a good account of how the universe works.” – Andrew Liddle and Jon Loveday
While physicists may argue about the definition of “nothing” (like Arizona State University professor Lawrence Krauss), all agree our universe (all space, time and matter) emerged from something other than space, time and matter (at least in the way we typically think of such things).
The Universe Was Caused By Something Eternal, “Outside the Room”
All investigators of universe’s origin, regardless of their beliefs about the existence of God, accept one important truth: the space, time and matter of the universe were caused by something other than space, time and matter. This inference is reasonable if you stop and think about it. To say that something can create itself is an unreasonably magical claim. For the space, time and matter of the universe to cause itself, it would have to exist to cause its own existence. See the problem? The natural realm of the universe is defined by its spatial, material and temporal attributes. If the first cause of this natural universe must, therefore, be something other than space, time or matter. For this reason, we must describe this cause as something “extra”-natural, “supra”-natural, or “super”-natural. This non-material, a-temporal, non-spatial cause is by definition, outside the “natural” realm. In essence, the first cause of the universe is “outside the room”.
That’s why even atheist physicists point to eternal, exterior causes (like “quantum vacuums” and other multi-verse generating environments) to explain the origin of our universe. The problem with these explanations, however, is in trying to understand the precise composition of the eternal, external environments and causes offered. Whatever they may be, they cannot be comprised of space, time and matter, as these attributes of the natural “room” of the universe did not come into being until the origin of the universe itself. Even the explanations offered by those who reject the existence of God come from “outside the room” of the natural universe and are, by definition, eternal to avoid having to be explained by other prior causes. Everyone believes the first cause of our universe must be an eternal, external cause, and this cause must be non-material, a-temporal and non-spatial.
Nearly everyone investigating the nature of the universe accepts the Standard Cosmological Model; we agree the universe came into being from nothing, and the first cause of this universe was something outside the natural realm of space, time and matter. Not everyone agrees, however on what this first cause might be. Is the first cause of the universe a personal or impersonal force? This appears to be the only question left for us to answer. I hope God’s Crime Scene can help you answer this question by employing a number of very simple investigative tools detectives use every day. Criminal investigators recognize one important evidential truth: the identity of a suspect must account for all the evidence “in the room”. Whatever caused the origin of our universe must also account for all the other evidence we see “in the room” including the fine-tuning of the cosmos, the origin of life, the appearance of design in biology, our experience of consciousness and free agency, the existence of transcendent objective moral truths, and the enduring presence of evil and injustice. If there is a single cause capable of unifying and explaining all the evidence we find in a scene, this cause is by far the most reasonable inference. After examining the possible explanations for eight pieces of evidence in the universe, I find God’s existence (as an eternal, external personal agent) to be the most reasonable inference. You can read more about my investigation and my inferences in God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe.
For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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